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Creating a quality business
Channelling creativity and artistry into a successful business is not easy. Accomplished jeweller Abby Seymour is well on her way, thanks partly to the Small Business Mentoring Service (SBMS).
Abby studied printmaking at RMIT and worked as a bookbinder for seven years before moving into gold and silversmithing. “I like to work with my hands, create,” she explains. “I have attention to details and small scaled works.”
Abby had exhibited as an artist, but it wasn’t until she started crafting small objects and jewellery that her work became sought-after and sellable. Since 2011, she has produced contemporary and timeless jewellery that is fully Australian designed and made. It is sold through retailers and online.
“I was also very motivated to create my own set of rules and limitations by starting my own business where I could uphold my ethics and standards, also offering an alternative, higher quality product and service in a mass-produced marketplace,” Abby says.
Abby Seymour designs boast detailed and intricate hand formed marks paired with bold, hard edge geometry, reflecting a restrained and quiet simplicity. The brand focuses on sustainability by using ethical business practices and materials with minimal impact on the environment.
Abby also works with clients to design and craft bespoke items such as wedding and engagement rings, teaches and hosts technical and practical workshops to share her skills and engage with the local community.
While she had a brilliant product, Abby decided she could benefit from an industry professional who could help set her in the right direction to achieve her goals, including improved sales and broader customer reach.
After finding SBMS online, Abby chose mentor Katya Ellis. As a talented retail and marketing all-rounder, Katya has extensive small business experience and exceptional people skills. She has held many marketing and business management roles with an emphasis on project, event, staff and partnership management, both locally and internationally.
Abby also had two sessions with Maggie Knight, who has many years’ experience in tourism, community projects and freelance writing. Maggie’s strength lies in creative industries development, publicity and fundraising.
SBMS is a non-government, non-profit organisation of volunteer expert mentors who give their time and experience to help small business. It is supported by Small Business Victoria, which refers clients to it.
Abby had three in-person sessions with Katya and two with Maggie over 12 months and plans another six sessions. She has also stayed in touch largely by email. Katya says Abby had a high level of business acumen and was already quite strategic in the way she approached her business.
However, market conditions had been discouraging so Katya and Maggie helped Abby to identify opportunities, link them with her goals and develop an action plan. They also covered:
- staffing, such as sourcing an intern to allow more time for other tasks
- outsourcing non-value add tasks
- identifying a studio/store with street presence to generate foot traffic exposure, host workshops for extra income and make designs more accessible to customers without being “appointment only”
- considering other revenue streams to improve Abby’s wage and fund staff
- reviewing and prioritising range development.
Katya says that since they met, Abby has opened her new studio store and launched workshops, as well as engaging more people to help with business operations and marketing. It is early days, but enquiries have increased by up to 40 per cent and new customers by about 20 per cent.
The studio has underlined Abby’s brand presence and professional appearance, attracted new clients, strengthened her relationship with existing clients and provided space for business and staff growth. Katya says the business is now poised to move to the next level.
“Abby has actioned a few of the ideas we discussed, and we trouble-shooted any issues such as challenges with finding a wholesale agent and whether wholesale should be outsourced or done in house,” she says.
Abby, who now has five contractors, says Katya provided an insight into potential new avenues and helped to pinpoint the most useful information to gain a better understanding of where her business was and could go.
“She showed me the importance of planning and writing up my personal and business goals to get clear on the direction I wanted and needed to go in order to be able to work towards them, rather than having an abstract view that wasn’t being worked on until it happened,” Abby says.
Maggie also helped to provide another perspective. “They both came up with slightly different ways that I could approach things,” Abby says.
If she had not sought a mentor, Abby says she may not have been able to consolidate so well. “I’d be going through the same motions, financially coasting but not growing or adapting, potentially looking for another career path and not being self-employed,” she says.
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